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The King of Chao was on the point of sending an envoy to Ch’u

The King of Chao was on the point of sending an envoy to Ch’u. He played for a while on the cither, and then dispatched him saying, "Be careful not to forget the words of my message."
The envoy received the order kneeling and said without rising, "Never have I heard Your Majesty play such moving music on the cither as today."
The king said, "It is true. The cither is certainly well tuned."
The envoy said, "Since it is in tune, it would be a good thing to make a note of the position of the bridge."
The king said, "It will not do. As the weather is dry or wet, so the strings are loose or tight. The bridge must be adjustable, and cannot be marked for a given position."
The envoy said, "May I borrow a metaphor from this? Ch’u is more than a thousand li distant from Chao. Furthermore fortune is variable. Bad luck calls for condolences, and good luck for congratulation. It is like the bridge of a cither which must be adjustable and cannot be marked for a given position. So when a ruler sends an envoy, he should hold him to the mission he is sent on and not charge him with specific words."
The Ode says,
Many are the messengers,
Ever anxious lest they should not succeed.
It is lamenting that subordinates are controlled from above.


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